May 31, 2010

Debt, Greece, and the Fight Back

Debt means different things to different people. For a family with two modest income jobs (if their lucky enough to have jobs), a mortgage and two kids in college, debt is the only route to having a reasonable standard of living with some guarantee of the satisfaction of health care needs or other insurances against the contingencies of life. Debt and its burdens count as a withdrawal against future income and wealth. For most people – and most people fit this profile to some extent – mortgages, credit cards, home equity loans and other forms of borrowing – are the only bridge to a level of comfort available to the previous generation of working people.

For the professional and small business class – what Marx called the petite-bourgeoisie – debt is the mechanism that provides a standard of living that establishes a common bond and identity with the very rich. Jumbo mortgages, expensive car loans, small business loans, and lines of credit support membership in the clubs, associations, and parties of the wealthy, while greasing the track of access to business and social contacts.

Read more here.

Honoring buddies, not war, on Memorial Day--A Communist Looks At Memorial Day

Today, I will again lift a pint of ale in memory of my three friends and their comrades who died in Vietnam.

I honor them without honoring the aggressive and unjust war in which they fought.

I don't know what their motivation was to join the military, maybe it was simply that the draft gave them no choice, but it really doesn't matter. What I do know for sure is that their lives were unnecessarily cut short.

Read more here.

Community Radio In Salem

KMUZ are the call letters for FM bandwidth 88.5. KMUZ is not on the air yet, but will be by August 2011. Community radio is non commercial, run primarily by volunteers, and is for and by the local community. Programs will range from music to community affairs to broadcasting live at local events. YOU can have a show or otherwise be involved.

Learn more, and become a charter member by joining us at our Kick-Off Membership Drive:

Where: Venti's Downstairs Bar (325 Court St. NE)
When: Monday June 7, 5:30 to 7:30pm
Theme: For the Love of Radio - Local musicians, hosted by Lisa Nunes, perform songs they learned to love from listening to the radio!
Cost: Free, but to become a member ($40) or to donate any amount, bring your wallet.

Go to to learn more about this great opportunity.

Organizing On Portland's Buses---The Mass Line: What It Is and How to Use It

This comes from Freedom Road in Portland:

While organizing people on the bus, I met a Black janitor who was very supportive of our work to fight for better buses and lowered fares, but thought that “immigrants” caused the bus fares to cost more. Instead of agreeing with him, I pointed out the salaries of the administration of the transit agency, and how they had given themselves raises all while cutting bus routes and upping fares and that disproportionately affected immigrant people.

We organize mass movements to create more favorable conditions for socialist revolution. But how revolutionaries organize people is very important. There are many methods for organizing people, such as Alinskyism, which push people to fight for small reforms but ultimately never challenge the logic of capitalism-imperialism. Many of the world’s revolutionaries use a method called the mass line, which was developed by Mao Zedong but has been a principle of the communist movement since Karl Marx.

Read more here.

May 29, 2010

Mid-Valley Says "NO" To Anti-Immigrant Legislation!

Many of us attended a very good rally and march today at the Oregon State Capitol in protest of Arizona's horrible anti-immigrant bill, SB 1070. Similar bills are cropping up around the country as well as right here in Marion County. It was a diverse and energetic crowd, speaking out against the bill in Arizona and anything similar in the works in Oregon. Solidarity!

Why MoveOn Doesn't Move Me has been around long enough to become a pole of attraction for disaffected progressive Democrats. The effort was started by Joan Blades and Wes Boyd, two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, in the late '90s and was then seen as a bold rush into the future: no one could tell how e-mail activism, social networking and progressive politics would mix. Compared to the Tea Party movement, which came much later and borrowed some of MoveOn's methods, the organization had the promise--and held the reality early on--of being a grassroots movement based on progressive or liberal citizens' initiatives taken across the US. It had both an urban and suburban appeal in its earliest days and spoke about "partisan warfare" in D.C. It proved to be a direct threat to the far-right as rightwing fortunes fell and as liberal currents reemerged. Locally, MoveOn has been relatively successful with agitation around healthcare and less successful in building an antiwar or peace initiative. Local MoveOn members have not been blinded by loyalty to the Democrats or to their shifting principles.

Modern "progressive" politics remain vague and undefined. From the most often articulated progressive standpoint, this is just fine. This is a movement made up of many contending organizations that has so far found its strength in voicing commonly held historic values or myths: the myth of an American democracy founded alternately on the best of Roosevelt's New Deal or on the democratic culture and affinity of small producers and empowered consumers, the myth of a media and business establishment which functions objectively and with a sense of egalitarian patriotism, the myth of political progress without "wedge issues," the myth of populism which does not cave to the rightwing and so forth. These myths or values have substance in the US. They hold the potential to help move society forward while also retarding or redirecting our country's on-going struggles with questions of race, class and gender. To the extent that certain aspects of the old populism and the New Deal are salvageable and realistic, MoveOn is forward looking. To the extent that something new needs to be birthed and that it is capitalism itself which needs to be interrogated and replaced, MoveOn is regressive and backward-looking.

One prominent local MoveOn activist recently stated at a meeting that "most things in life are gray." It is a safe stand or saying because it assumes an equality of all positions and relieves everyone of having to choose sides. After all, if everything is ultimately gray then arguments over politics and policy are only so much bother. Our struggle, then, is not to change policy but to broaden a political discussion and have our grayness overtake your black or white opinions or categories. It becomes in its worst form a kind of nihilism in which nothing matters.

Other local MoveOn members are very concerned about the establishment of corporate personhood and corporate control of the media. These are valid concerns, but they cannot be sorted out in isolation from other and more basic political questions. Corporate personhood and corporate control of the media exist as they do precisely because we live in a time of ascendant monopoly power and imperialism which functions in ways which work without ceasing to extract profits from the labor of workers in the US and globally. The system is in crisis now because of its own internal contradictions and because its drive for profits and power has forced a situation of over-production and under-consumption into being. Racist and sexist domination cannot be separated from these events: imperialism is racist at its heart; the rate of exploitation and insecurity falls heavier on women, oppressed nations and national minorities globally than it does upon anyone else; and the current crisis is likely to last for some time regardless of who holds political office in Washington or who writes the editorials for the local paper. Our political struggle, therefore, should be centered on winning over the center to the left behind a broad anti-monopoly and peace program which prioritizes the struggles for green jobs and against racism and sexism. The capitalist press cannot and will not support this. We need our own media and we need the kind of media which organizes and empowers people--not a media of endless discussion and "democratic" debate, but a media of action and agitation and critical thinking.

We saw no MoveOn presence at the immigrant rights rally today. Outside of whatever scheduling problems may have existed for MoveOn members, the fact is that immigrant rights is a challenge for populism. The "American" ideals populism prizes clashes with the cultures and presence in this country of so many people who come from societies which have different political, economic and cultural biases. Corporate control of the media and corporate personhood, as populist issues, are unlikely to resonate as organizing issues with people confronting racial profiling and racist legislation, communities in crisis, deportation and some of the the lowest wages jobs existing in this country. Moreover, I want to say clearly that social movements which do not confront racism head-on in this country accept the privileges that come with being white and are gradually undermined and moved to the margins because they do not organize and fight in principled ways against the system which creates and bestows privileges. This has been a fundamental and historic problem for liberals, progressives and the left in the US.

Taking this one step further, I want to add that Americans--and white Americans in particular--have a political responsibility to actively support immigrant rights and the demands of people of color. We should reflect on the chant we so often hear at demonstrations--"Tell me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!" It comes so often from young people of color who are asserting a rainbow concept of direct democracy in the streets. And we are hearing again at demonstrations "The people united shall never be defeated!" and "No pasaran!". These chants also speak to leftist forms of democracy which arose in anti-fascist and anti-imperialist revolutions of the 20th century. MoveOn and the form of populism it generally represents is being left behind by other, more radical movements in which theory and practice mirror one another and then merge. There is little or nothing "gray" here.

I am not framing this as a debate between reform and revolution. I am saying that MoveOn is missing the boat as the reform agenda in the US moves on without it. Immigrant rights, real labor law reform, sanctions against the energy sector monopolies, withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, national healthcare, green jobs and restructuring, stopping foreclosures and a social program which provides either work or income for the unemployed are all reasonable "big picture" reforms worth fighting for which affect most people most of the time. Closer to home we should be working to create a state-owned bank, stop the attacks on the public sector, change the way student loans are done and broaden Oregon's efforts at creating forms of universal healthcare. My position is not a "purist" revolutionary position at all.

The line I am putting forward here is neither seamless nor without fault or contradiction. But MoveOn will not engage enough to even carry on a debate about these points. What we have seen at local MoveOn meetings is a kind of "tyranny of structurelessness" in which a few people talk a great deal about their political angst without debating with others, the structure of the organization remains undefined and essentially inert and the loudest voices determine MoveOn's program. Since there is no money, there is no budget and the organization is stuck on the margins. There seem to be no elected or responsible leaders accountable to a collective body. The result is that MoveOn looks and feels a great deal more libertarian or "flat" than it actually is, or is intended to be. I offer again that this is the understandable result of being divorced from struggles for race, class and gender equality and living with more myth and values than political analysis.

May 28, 2010

Breaking Public Employee Unions?

Recently I read with dismay an article by Mort Zuckerman, the editor of U.S. News & World Report, on the titled 'Breaking the Public Sector Unions' Stranglehold on State and Local Governments.'

Read more here.

Freedom Road Socialist Organization Statement on the Revolution in Nepal‏

Nepal is one of the most poor and economically underdeveloped countries in the world. It sits between the nations of India and China and within these conditions a broad and astonishing revolutionary movement is being developed. Beginning in 1996 the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)—also known as the Maobadi—launched a popular armed guerrilla struggle against the feudal monarchy, headed by King Gyanendra.

The Maoists based themselves initially from the remote villages of Rolpa and Rukum, following the “Protracted People’s War” strategy originally developed by Mao Zedong. That was the defining strategy that won the Chinese Revolution, which involved encircling the cities from the countryside. The Maoists formed the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) which would militarily confront the monarchist forces, while revolutionary activists in the cities encouraged general strikes and talk of insurrection.

There are many notable things about this revolution that distinguish it from others, but prominently the issue of democracy, or as the Maoists call it “proletarian democracy,” has come to the forefront. After successfully building base areas and mobilizing both the rural peasantry and urban working classes, the revolutionaries of Nepal entered into a Seven Party Alliance to strip King Gyanendra of his crown, officially denouncing his position of “living god” and effectively abolishing the system of monarchy in Nepal. The Maoists have stated that they believe that the process of socialist construction should necessarily see competing parties as desirable.

Read more here.

May 27, 2010

Racial wealth gap quadruples in 20 years

Capitalism is bad for working-class people. Unregulated capitalism is even worse, particularly for black and brown citizens and immigrants who suffer the additional burden of systemic racial, ethnic and gender discrimination.

So says a new study by Brandeis University's Institute on Assets and Social Policy. The study shows a dramatic quadrupling of the wealth gap between African American and their white counterparts in the two decades since 1984. The study tracked median wealth between whites and blacks."The greatest wealth produced in this period accrues primarily to highest income whites," says the study. This group was the chief beneficiariy of Republican tax cuts.

Read more here.

The Time of Day: Getting the Big Picture of What Progressives Need To Do

When asked what time it was, Yogi Berra responded, “You mean, right now?”

For those who are involved in politics, the question is “What’s the political time of day, like right now?” What’s happening in this country on the large scale? What’s the Obama Administration trying to do? What are its internal limitations and its external constraints? And what should progressives be trying to accomplish?

When, during the election campaign, Obama said that he admired Reagan for having captured the mood of the country and shifting the governance of the country according to that mood, I don’t believe that he was conveying his approval of the character of the changes. Rather, I think that he was admiring the process of transformation because he envisions his administration initiating a process of change of direction of the nation as well.

Reagan’s “revolution” was to distance government on all levels from responsibility for infrastructure, corporate regulation, and social safety net while strengthening the military industrial complex, setting the stage for globalization, breaking the unions, and initiating the most extraordinary transfer of wealth to the ruling classes that this nation had not seen since the 1880’s. The slogan, then as now, was free markets and limited government. And that slogan has taken hold; it now represents a deeply held feeling in this country, even among those for whom the absence of government has been crippling.

Read more here.

Single-payer health care in health care overhaul law?

WASHINGTON (PAI) - Is single-payer government-run health care - a key cause for 21 international unions and 500 other labor organizations and a bugaboo for the health insurers and the Radical Right - in the massive health care overhaul Congress approved on party-line votes and President Barack Obama signed?

Its top senatorial proponent, Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders, says the answer is "yes," even though the words "single payer" aren't written down. And there are some conditions that must be met before single-payer systems are up and running.

Read more here.

May 25, 2010

Kulongoski Attempts To Cut Services, Jobs & Salaries Again

At a press conference held earlier today the Governor announced his decision to use his authority to direct state agencies to enact across the board cuts of 9% (General Fund only) to balance the state budget. This announcement came as an approximately $500 million dollar short fall was announced through the state's revenue forecast. It seems like an optimistic and opportunistic announcement given the continuing budget crisis and the just-concluded primaries. Some state workers went into panic mode with the announcement while others shrugged it off as a threat. Most working people who are paying attention probably can guess that another round of job and service cuts won't balance the budget and that we're in for continuing hard times for awhile longer.

Proposed cuts at the Department of Human Services may total $154million. The Oregon Youth Authority may lose as much as $11 million. The state’s higher ed system may lose as much as $30 million. You can go here and here for more information from the Governor and his staff.

The Governor is giving state agencies two weeks to prepare their cuts list. Many state agencies are well into this process and have been making cuts in workers and services for some time. This round of cuts will continue and deepen job losses and service cuts—exactly what should not be happening during a budget and revenue crisis.

Union contracts covering most state employees already identify means which may be used to identify and put in place savings for the state. Commonsense should dictate that privatization of state services should be stopped and reversed, if only for the sake of saving public resources and wealth. Non-represented workers and state managers will see an extension of the wage freeze (a step freeze since there are no cost of living adjustments) effective immediately. Even with this, however, the core problem---that the banks and the wealthy have driven a crisis to our doorsteps--remains, and perhaps even gets worse.

The Governor is not letting the crisis go to waste. He's using it to undercut and attack public worker unions. He called today on the unions to reopen their contracts and "match" the cuts being taken by other state workers. This smacks of hypocrisy and bad sense, if not as an outright attack on public employee unionism. The workers who are taking new cuts have no choice in the matter. A downward wage and benefit spiral set by unionized workers—built on cuts already made and in effect now—would politicize union contract bargaining in negative ways and make union contract bargaining a factor in the fall elections. Union members are unlikely to take the “go along, get along” attitude the Governor expects when it comes to reopening union contracts. Remember that state workers are living with unpaid furlough days, significantly reduced take-home pay, and no cost of living raise for two years, reducing the diminishing buying power of their wages to barely 70 percent of what they could buy in 1992. More than half of state workers probably earn less than $40,000 a year. Even with the dangerous deflation we are currently seeing, it still feels to many state workers that they are living in relative poverty while working harder to provide public services.

The Governor is pushing cuts while allegedly seeking to avoid “partisan gridlock" and a special legislative session. We should be so lucky. A determined group of working class legislators and their allies could help force a public debate, win over people stuck in the center and continue on the tax-the-rich roll we were on when voters passed Ballot Measures 66 and 67 earlier this year. The political problem we have is that we do not have a legislative bloc capable of doing this or the unity needed right now to take to the streets and protest. The crisis should not be ours—it belongs to the banks and to the wealthy who have gained from it.

May 23, 2010

Backyard Chickens in Salem

If you want to show your support for the backyard chicken movement...again... please show up at:

Salem City Hall at 6:30 on Monday, the 24th of May.

It should be relatively quick (in City Hall time). Show up, raise your hand when asked if you support backyard hens, then take off if you wish. The actual vote to bring the issue back to the table isn't until later in the evening, but if you're there for the show of hands that would be fantastic! Please come out!

May 15, 2010

Socialism In North Dakota

The Bank of North Dakota is the only state-owned bank in America. Despite that, or because of it, the bank earned a record profit last year even as its private-sector corollaries lost billions.

Some who have difficulty even absorbing news of a profitable socialist enterprise point to North Dakota's well-insulated economy, which is heavy on agricultural staples and light on housing speculation, as the source of its success.

But this has not stopped out-of-state politicos from making pilgrimages to Bismarck for counsel and advice. Could opening state-owned banks across America get us out of the financial crisis? The Bank of North Dakota, with its $4 billion under management, has avoided the credit freeze and crisis by creating its own credit, and in doing so, is leading the nation in establishing state economic sovereignty as well. Could decentralizing large sectors of finance provide better insurance - a better hedge, if one may use that term - for the people, against the "too big to fail" phenomenon?

The North Dakota state bank was created 90 years ago, in 1919, as a populist movement swept the northern plains. Basically it was a very angry movement led by farmers against bank and land speculators in Minneapolis, or New York. Those money markets decided who got credit and who did not and who got to market their goods. So a rebellion swept the northern plains. In North Dakota the movement was called the Nonpartisan League, and the League actually took control of the legislature and created what was called an industrial program, which created both the Bank of North Dakota as a financing arm and a state-owned mill and elevator to market and buy the grain from the farmer. And both of those institutions are in existence today doing exactly what they were created to do 90 years ago.

The funding model, or deposit model, is really the unique engine that drives that bank. The state bank is the depository for all state tax collections and fees. In effect, this is a captive deposit base. The bank pays a competitive rate to the state treasurer to help insure competent management. What separates the state bank from private institutions is that the base of deposit funds is plowed back into North Dakota in the form of loans to foster public state economic development activities.

Read more here.

Labor Rallies In Portland Upcoming

Skychef Workers Support Rally
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
7201 Northeast Alderwood Road, Portland

Friday, May 21, Noon Aramark Contract Rally (UNITE/HERE) Convention Center, 777 NE MLK

Saturday, May 22, 1-4pm, Move Your Money Rally: Local Banking for a Vibrant Local Economy, Pioneer Square, Sponsored by Real Wealth of Portland

Thursday, May 27, National Day of Action Against Pacific Rim Mining Company, details TBA

Alison Weir to speak in Portland

Tuesday, May 18, 2010, 6:00pm
"Israel-Palestine: Behind the Headlines"

Lecture and slide-show by internationally known media critic on "Israel-Palestine: Behind the Headlines" – what the news media are not telling Americans
May 18, Tuesday, 6-8pm
Multnomah Central Library, 801 Southwest 10th Ave, Portland, OR
Coffee and Refreshements! Internationally known Middle East expert and media critic Alison Weir will be speaking in Portland on Tuesday, May 18. A former journalist, Weir will describe traveling throughout the West Bank and Gaza and will discuss media coverage of the region, including statistical studies and in-depth analyses. She will show slides and a short video clip.

Back to Marx: How can his work help us to understand modern times?

Translated Saturday 15 May 2010, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Henry Crapo. This comes from L'Humanite.

The world economic crisis has ended the taboo on referring to Marx. More and more works are being published on the author of Das Kapital, and the press is publishing special sections on him.

A discussion with Edgar Morin, the philosopher and sociologist, emeritus research director at the CNRS who holds honorary doctorates from many universities around the world and with André Tosel, the philosopher and specialist in Karl Marx and Marxism, professor at the University of Nice.

Although all of the many publications dedicated to Marx lately are not of the same quality, one can nevertheless only be surprised by this sudden increase in interest in him. When such magazines as le Nouvel Observateur and le Point, each according to its political orientation, look into Marx, it is at the very least indicative of certain splits in the mainstream media, whose ideological horizon remains limited to that of capitalist society.

“It may very well be that what we are witnessing is not simply the end of the Cold War or a particular post-war phase, but the end of history as such: (...) the universal adoption of Western liberal democracy as the definitive form of human government,” Francis Fukuyama, the American leader of this school of thought, wrote in 1989, the year when the Berlin Wall fell. Almost twenty years on, in October 2008, New Yorkers were demonstrating in front of the Wall Street Stock Exchange and waving signs saying “Marx was right!”

Read the rest here.

Union Victory in California Desert -- Workers Beat Back Most of Rio Tinto's Demands

The labor world has been watching the struggle of miners, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, locked out by Rio Tinto in southern California. Below is a report by Jane Slaughter of Labor Notes on the next step in that struggle. The article appeared on Alternet here.

Miners in Boron, California, vote Saturday on a tentative agreement to end their 15-week lockout. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union [Local 30] says the pact beats back most of the demands made by Rio Tinto, the world's fourth-largest mining company.

Rio Tinto had demanded the right to convert full-time jobs to part-time, gut seniority, cut pay at any time, and outsource. The six-year agreement calls for annual 2.5 percent wage increases but takes a step backward on pensions: new hires will receive 401(k)s.

Workers credited the victory to the outpouring of support both from their own small town in the High Desert of Southern California and from Los Angeles, 125 miles away, as well as throughout the ILWU.

The Boron miners received a Troublemakers Award at the April 23-25 Labor Notes Conference, which honors some of the most outstanding (and often unsung) grassroots activists in the labor movement.

"The biggest lesson we learned," said instrumentation electrician Mike Davenport, "is that it's not enough to be union for one day, to get the contract. You've got to reach out to others who've supported you. People were driving 100+ miles to support us; we have to do the same."

Four factors contributed to the win:

.community and labor movement support. Tons of food were delivered from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and others. The ILWU had doctors volunteer for a free clinic. The local credit union-the only financial institution in Boron-let workers slide for three months on house and car notes, said rank and filer Kevin Martz.

.the union's pressure, with allies, on Rio Tinto around the world. Protesters dogged company executives from Boston to London to Australia.

.poor production by scabs. "They admitted less than a month ago they were on their third group of scabs," said Martz. Much of the workforce is highly skilled and familiar with the operation, coming from generations of mining families.

.political pressure that stopped a federal handout of tribal lands in Arizona to Rio Tinto for copper mining.

Rio Tinto spent thousands of dollars trying to convince the people of Boron that their neighbors were backward and greedy, but the company's ads didn't resonate. The ILWU was able to show that this was a David v. Goliath struggle of workers and families against a multinational conglomerate seeking to starve workers into submission to a workplace without rights.

"Rio Tinto has gotten a lot of negative press and they want to reverse their public image," Martz said.

Said rank-and-filer Kim Evans, "When we first got locked out I thought there was no way in heck we would win this. But we had so many people that showed up out here. I grew up out here, but for other people it's a shock-a little tiny desert town that looks like it would blow away. The Teamsters brought us $30,000 worth of groceries and then another $20,000, so we had a food bank."

Marion County Upcoming Organizing Events

From Rosalee Pedroza:

Rural Organizing Project in conjunction with the AFL-CIO and other unions and community organizations is putting on a foreclosure workshop similar to one held in both Portland and Medford.

It will be held on Saturday, June 19 at either the Silverton or Macleay Grange hall; cost $50 per family or $20 if a family is in or facing foreclosure (no one turned away for inability to pay); and folks can contact me at 503-743-4591. Morning will be devoted to tools to fight foreclosures and the afternoon to community action plans. We will also have tabling available in which we are trying to focus on either jobs issues (like green jobs, displaced workers) or services that can assist families.

We also are potentially facing anti-immigrant and TABOR like ballot measures in Marion County and need to be aware they are coming possibly on the November ballot. CAUSA and PCUN are spearheading this with ROP and other groups.

May 7, 2010

Class Struggles and National Debts

Class Struggles and National Debts

Submitted to Portside by Rick Wolff

May 5, 2010

The political conflicts and street battles in Greece today foretell what is coming to many countries including the US. The struggles are basically over what the government spends on and who pays the taxes. In today's class-divided societies, classes differ over what governments should do and who should pay the taxes. Governments in such societies often turn to borrowing - which produces national debts - as ways to defer and postpone the political problems of resolving class struggles focused on the state. By borrowing, governments can immediately accommodate - at least partly - the different class demands for government spending while postponing the raising of taxes into the future (when they will need to be raised more, of course, to repay the amount borrowed plus interest).

Problems arise when lenders to such governments demand much higher interest payments or refuse to lend more. Then rising national debts can no longer postpone resolution of the underlying class struggles. Those debts react back upon and intensify those struggles. So it is in Greece today, and so it will be elsewhere in the months and years to come wherever governments cope with their societies' class divisions by borrowing. Class struggles deferred often become class struggles sharpened.

Employers and employees struggle everywhere over what activities the government should and should not perform. Employers want governments to support and enhance the profits they seek (build and secure the transportation and communication infrastructures they want, educate their workers, protect their markets,enforce their contracts in courts, etc.). Employees, in contrast, want the government to support their incomes, families, and standards of living (provide unemployment insurance, social security, medical insurance, public parks, subsidized housing and public education, etc.).

At the same time, employees and employers struggle over who is to pay the costs of government expenditures. Employers seek to burden employees by shifting income taxes onto middle and lower income earners, by imposing sales and property taxes that fall disproportionally on those earners, and so on. Employees seek to push tax burdens in the opposite direction (more progressive income taxes, capital-gains and dividends taxes, etc.).

The two sides' relative strengths - their organizations and resources - usually determine the patterns of government expenditures and what portion of the tax bill each side pays. Rarely, employers and employees agree or at least compromise on these contentious issues. However, mostly conflicts and struggles between the two sides pressure governments.

Governments fear the political costs of going so far in placating one side that they risk being ousted from power by the other side. Borrowing thus eases their problems at least temporarily. Moreover, politicians borrow because the eventual costs and the difficult end of accumulating national debts fall upon their successors.

Of course, lenders to governments come chiefly from employers, not employees. Lenders are, of course, complicit in building up national debts because they collect most of the interest payments from the borrowing governments. From the employers' perspective, the national debt often looks like an attractive lesser evil. The employers fear that when the government gets into a corner - it needs to spend more, say to bail out a capitalist crisis - that government may find it politically impossible to impose higher taxes on the mass of employees. Indeed, employees might then demand and the government might be tempted to raise taxes on employers. The employers prefer a lesser evil; instead of taxing us, they say in unison, how about we lend you the money.

Major lenders to governments around the world are banks; hence they are major gainers from national debts. The current explosion in national debts is thus a bonanza for the world's banks. As major contributors to the current crisis, banks now reap major gains from the government borrowing undertaken to cope with that crisis. The alternative and much cheaper path - to tax employers rather than borrow from them and repay with interest- is barely discussed.

Lenders to governments understand that class struggles postponed may thereby be sharpened. As Greece's national debts mounted, lenders worried about the rising interest costs facing the Greek government. They watched Greek society wrestling over who would suffer to enable the government to pay the interest on its accumulated national debt. They foresaw a possible stalemate where the Greek government would be unable to either raise taxes or cut spending on employees. The lenders thus confronted the risk of a Greek government tempted into default, declaring it would not repay its lenders part or all of what it had borrowed (as, for example, Argentina did a few years ago).

The lenders therefore began refusing to lend any more to Greece (or even to roll over debt coming due) or they demanded much higher interest rates. In effect, lenders demanded that the Greek government either tax employees more or else cut government spending on employees to free up money to service Greece's national debt. Or else no more loans and/or much higher interest on loans. The European Union's leaders repeated the demands of the private lenders when they offered public loans from the Union at lower interest rates than private lenders. The European Union's leaders (chiefly Germany's Merkel and France's Sarkozy) shared the fears and perspectives of private lenders that Greece might default. Then, too, German and French banks were the largest lenders to the Greek government and so had special vulnerability to a Greek government default.

The moral of the story of class struggles and national debts is this: government borrowing is capitalism's very employer-partisan way out from a political dead end. It rewards lenders nicely, but it only works for awhile. Employers who avoid taxes and instead lend to governments eventually encounter the risk of default by over-indebted and politically stalemated governments. Then employers refocus their own and governments' efforts back on the old, underlying class struggles by concerted attacks to reduce government spending on employees while taxing them more. Americans will confront the same basic situation as the immense and growing US national debt brings its lenders to a similar crossroads. Meanwhile, workers from Greece to Portugal, Spain, Italy, Ireland and beyond ready themselves for massive, sharpened struggles.

Good Food Documentary to show in Salem

ACTION NAME: Good Food Documentary

DATES: May 13, 2010 through May 13, 2010

TIME: 7:00 pm

ORGANIZATION: Salem Progressive Film Series


DESCRIPTION: Salem Progressive Film Series
presents the documentary

"Good Food"
Thursday, May 13th
7 PM, doors open at 6:15
$3/$2 students

Grand Theatre - 191 High Street NE-Salem (corner of Court & High)

Something remarkable is happening in the fields and orchards of the Pacific Northwest. Small family farmers are making a comeback. They’re growing much healthier food and growing more food per acre, while using less energy and water than a factory farm. For decades, NW agriculture has focused on a few big crops for export. But to respond to climate change and an end to cheap energy, each region needs to grow more food and to grow food more sustainably. Good Food visits producers, farmers’ markets, stores and public officials who are developing a more sustainable food system for all.
For trailer:

Guest Speakers include:

Karl Kupers
Center for Sustaining and Natural Resources Advisory Comm.


Steven Perkins
Owner, Baker, Cascade Baking Co., Salem
For more information: 503-385-1876 or 503-779-5288

Papers, the movie, the show in Newport

ACTION NAME: Papers, the movie

DATES: May 20, 2010 through May 20, 2010

TIME: 6:30 pm

ORGANIZATION: Coastal Progressives of Lincoln and South Tillamook Counties


DESCRIPTION: Imagine if you did not have the right to live in the country where you grew up. Imagine that you couldn’t work or drive. Imagine you couldn’t apply for a state ID or get on an airplane. Imagine you could be deported to a country you don’t remember.

Each year some 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school in the U.S. and find the door to their future slammed shut because their parents came here without “papers.” It is difficult, if not impossible in some states, for them to attend college. Currently, there is no path to citizenship for these young people. Papers is the story of undocumented youth and the challenges they face as they turn 18 without legal status.

Papers is a feature-length documentary produced by Graham Street Productions, a Portland-based film company, in partnership with Film Action Oregon, as well as community organizations around the country who are working to change immigration policy on behalf of these young people. El Grupo Juvenil (the "Papers" Youth Crew) is actively involved in all aspects of the production.

Coastal Progressives of Lincoln County are bringing this movie, Papers, for a community showing at Newport High School, 322 NE Eads St,, on Thursday May 20, 6:30 p.m. in Room E-9. We want the widest possible audience to understand the plight of these young students who were born outside the U.S. but raised in this country. Donations of $5 are requested to help cover costs.

Visit to watch the trailer. For tickets and more information, contact Jorge Hernandez at Centro de Ayuda, 541 265 6216.

May 4, 2010

Greek Counterattack at the Acropolis

Taken from the Communist Party of Greece:

"With a symbolic action on 4 May 2010 KKE sends to the peoples of Europe a message of resistance and counterattack against the anti-labour measures taken in Greece and in other countries under the pretext of the exit from the capitalist crisis.

"Tens of members of KKE proceeded early in the morning of 4 May in a symbolic occupation of the Acropolis rock. With red flags and two enormous banners bearing the slogan “Peoples of Europe rise up” written in Greek and in English they called for the further development of the class struggle just a few hours after the great demonstrations for the May Day organised by the All Workers’ Militant Front (PAME) in 75 cities throughout Greece and just before the 24hour nationwide strike on 5th May against the anti-peoples and anti-workers measures promoted by the social-democrat government of PASOK, the EU and the IMF. At the same time, the civil servants went on strike on May 4."

May 3, 2010

Trash on the Oregon Coast

This weekend was a beautiful weather experience at the coast. A few relaxing days spent about eight miles south of Yachats. The breeze, the sun, the mist, the sounds and serenity. But all was far from well.

On the Gulf Coast of the Southern U.S., yet another tragic episode of our fossil fuel addiction is unfolding. Just as the Titanic was unsinkable, this spill was impossible according to BP. Yet, there it is. Like the wake of the Valdez spill, its poison is permanent and will remain a scar on the land for as long as humanity lingers on this Earth to see it.

But another stage in the life of petroleum has washed ashore on the Central Oregon Coast. Plastic... a bunch of it. Broken, battered, weathered. Everywhere. From the cliffs it appears as the usual remnant foam left by the receding tide. But closer inspection shows the sad reality of millions of tiny, and not-so-tiny, plastic chips. And of course, that is not all. Bottles, styrofoam, shoes, boat parts, cigarette lighters, toothbrushes, rope, tubing, and countless chunks of whatever.

We filled FIVE 30-gallon garbage bags, and collected numerous too-large-to-bag items from about a 1/4 mile section of beach. My first hour or so was therapeutic in a way. But as it went on that day, and into the next, I grew sad at the realization that i couldn't get all the big stuff, and that nobody may EVER be able to get the tiny pieces that littered the sand and tide pools. Sea anemones scattered with specs of trash, and nothing I could do about it.

Anything we found with writing on it was of Asian origin. This is not to point the finger at Asia for what is a global problem, but rather a point of emphasis that this stuff traveled all the way across the Pacific to land on our Northwest coastline. Alaska, New Jersey, the Gulf Coast, and all the other worldly locales hit by the spillage of crude... well, at least it's not that. But I fear that much of what I saw this past weekend is also with us for the duration.

The central coast is one of the most beautiful places I've visited. So, if you need a getaway, grab some trash bags and head on over. I say that with sincerity and sadness.